After a long winter spent hiding from the dark and the rain, we can all get a bit of ‘cabin fever’. The urge to get outside and experience the sights, sounds, and rhythms of nature is sometimes very strong. However, the realities of true outdoor living are often less relaxing than the romantic ideal! A glamping experience offers the perfect compromise: time in breath-taking natural surroundings, with some concessions to modern comforts, which fulfils the wanderlust and still leaves you rejuvenated and refreshed. We’ve picked some of our favourite spots for glamping in Asia to tempt you out of hibernation mode.
One of Nick’s favourite outdoor experiences is the Rabeang Pasak Treehouse resort. One of Thailand’s top spots for luxury glamping, Rabeang Pasak looks like something out of a fairy-tale: eight quirky treehouses nestling in the forested hillside of Chang Mai, offering everything from an adventurous family holiday to a cosy couples’ retreat. The facilities are basic but comfortable (electricity and running water really do feel like luxuries when you’re halfway up a tree!), and best suited to those able to clamber up ladders and hike over rough ground, but you can be sure of a warm welcome and hearty home-cooked meals around the campfire.
The owners of The Mudhouse resort in rural Sri Lanka are passionate about eco-sustainability, and this is evident in every aspect of the resort’s design, from the houses themselves (which are constructed from mud using traditional building methods) to the solar-torch lighting, ‘natural’ air conditioning (read: openings in the walls!) and organic food. This experience is certainly lighter on creature comforts, but with the impressive jungle surroundings, warm breezes and plenty of opportunities to get active (from biking and kayaking to touring the Cultural Triangle) you might not miss them too much.
A collection of floating platforms topped with stylish tent-style cabins make up the Elephant Hills Rainforest Camp in Thailand’s Cheow Larn Lake. Though serious about sustainability, facilities here are more luxurious than many glamping resorts: each cabin has an en-suite bathroom and large, comfy beds with views across the lake through the floor-to-ceiling windows. You can spend the days drinking mocktails on your private terrace, or set off in a kayak to explore the lake, but being gently rocked to sleep by the movement of the water as the sun sets behind the hills has to be the the cherry on the cake. If you like the sound of a floating resort but have your heart set on Cambodia, check out the 4 Rivers Floating Lodge near Koh Kong.
The chic cabins of Hoshinoya Fuji, one of Japan’s foremost glamping resorts, are about as luxurious as you can get and still get a sense of being close to nature. The minimalist ‘cube’ chalets, stacked on a forested hillside overlooking Lake Kawaguchi, are small but perfectly formed; as well as full en-suites (complete with bathtubs), each unit has its own kitchen area and sheltered balcony overlooking the lake where you can sit keeping warm by your very own campfire. The lake-facing wall is entirely glass, bringing in plenty of natural light and allowing you to wake gently with the dawn, just as you might on a more traditional camping trip.
One of the greatest joys of staying right in the middle of a forest or National Park is the opportunity to get close to the wildlife, but this doesn’t have to mean giving up on comfort. A 3- or 4-night experience at The Four Seasons Tented Camp brings you face to face with rescued elephants in their home habitat, where you will see how they are rehabilitated and cared for, trek through the surrounding forest with an experienced guide and even help the elephants taking a bath! All of this while staying in spacious accommodation – they can barely be called tents, really; more like marquees – including full en-suite facilities and great views of the valley. If you’re keen to get more of an authentic camping experience in Thailand, take a look at the Lala Mukha resort near beautiful Khao Yai National Park.
The Mahoora Tented Camps, in some of Sri Lanka’s spectacular National Parks, offer the chance to encounter exotic birds, elephants and even the odd leopard. The choice of location will depend on the wildlife you hope to see and the season, but wherever you pitch up you’ll be able to wake up each morning and step out of your tent right into the heart of the Sri Lankan landscape. This accommodation is certainly more recognisable as a tent, but you’ll still find comfortable beds, hot showers and some lovely details such as fruit baskets, fresh towels, and candlelit al fresco dining.
The simple wooden lodges of the Tabin Wildlife Reserve are surrounded by primary tropical rainforest, home to some of Borneo’s most famous and endangered species, such as pygmy elephants and orang-utans. We are stretching the definition of glamping to include this, as there really isn’t a tent in sight (although, if you are keen, one of the trekking packages includes a night in a hammock!), but it is a fantastic option for families and keen walkers who want to get close to nature and still have some well-deserved home comforts to return to at the end of a day’s trekking.
If you crave something more intrepid, how about a night in a treetop deep in the Laos jungle, accessible only by a series of zip-wires? The Jungle Treehouse is less like a hotel and more like an adventure playground with your sleeping quarters as the grand prize; great for those who don’t mind heights. As you might imagine, the treetop facilities are very basic – just a net-covered mattress on an open-sided wooden platform (which does have its own loo, but nothing else) from where you can enjoy the serene sounds of the jungle. There are shared bathroom facilities on the ground below, as well as a restaurant serving traditional Laos dishes, so you’re not left to fend for yourself completely!
For something truly unique experience, camping at the foot of Cambodia’s ancient temples gives you the full Indiana Jones feeling. Your tent (which really is a tent this time!) has been specially designed for Cambodia’s climate, and there is a loo and a shower unit available for your comfort, as well as experienced guides to take you through the jungle. When you consider that you’ll wake each morning to see the sunrise over some of most spectacular structures of the ancient world, and have them completely to yourself for hours, compromising on frills is a small price to pay.